What rubbish

29th September 2011


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  • Manufacturing ,
  • Management ,
  • EU ,
  • Recycling

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IEMA

If we are to become a zero waste society, then we need to invest in infrastructure now, says Paul Suff

From yesterday (28 September), waste transfer notes – which are legally required when waste is transferred from one person to another – must contain a declaration that the transferor has applied the waste hierarchy. That means anyone creating commercial or industrial waste has a legal duty to follow the five-stage waste hierarchy of first prevention, then preparing for reuse, recycling, recovery and, finally, disposal.

How easy is it to apply the hierarchy? Not very if you’re a manufacturer, according to a new report from the EEF. Although it finds evidence that modern techniques, like lean manufacturing, are reducing waste by preventing overproduction and defects, and that rising commodity prices are encouraging better resource efficiency, it reveals barriers to achieving more and to establishing zero waste as the norm.

Part of the problem is that the UK does not have the facilities to manage some wastes, making their recycling and recovery expensive. The EEF gives the recovery of valuable metals from the dust from flue gas cleaning filters as an example. Recovery facilities exist on the continent, but not in the UK, forcing domestic manufacturers to ship their waste overseas, adding to the cost and regulatory burden.

The EEF report follows hot on the heels of one from the Associate Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG). It too concludes that the UK’s waste management infrastructure is lacking, saying that £8 billion of investment is necessary by 2020 to meet EU directives and cut the amount of waste going to landfill.

Where’s the money to come from? The previous government funded such projects, like other new infrastructure, through its private finance initiative (PFI), but the coalition has restricted PFI funding, cancelling seven waste projects last November to save more than £1 billion as it seeks to pay down the public deficit. The Treasury wants the private sector to foot most of the bill for waste schemes, but investors are fearful of the risks – including whether there is sufficient feedstock – that accompany such developments. APSRG wants the proposed Green Investment Bank to underwrite the financial risks. A GIB-backed guarantee should be geared towards developing commercial and industrial, and merchant waste capacity, says the group.

Earlier this year, Defra claimed that UK business could save around £23 billion a year from resource-efficiency measures, with the vast majority (£18 billion) coming from diverting waste from landfill. So, investment in waste infrastructure now could produce significant annual savings. Surely we should be investing now for long-term gain?


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